All licensed drivers in Florida have a duty to obey all traffic signs and
operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner every time they are
on the roads or highways. Not only can breaching this duty result in a
car accident, but it can also lead to traffic citations or even a criminal charge.
Failure to exercise reasonable care when you are behind the wheel can lead
to two types of traffic offenses: careless driving and reckless driving.
Although many people use these terms interchangeably, there are several
differences between careless driving and reckless driving in Florida.
Under Florida Statute § 316.1925:
“Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within
the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having
regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant
circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any
person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving
and a violation of this section.”
Careless driving is often cited in rear-end collisions and failure-to-yield
accents. Officers may sometimes cite this offense in distracted driving
cases, although they may also charge a distracted driver with violating
Florida’s distracted driving law.
Careless driving is a moving violation, which carries steep fines and points
added to your driver’s license, which can result in driver’s
license suspension and increased insurance premiums. These citations are
generally used as a “catch-all” citation to whoever is at
fault for causing a car accident – especially if a police officer
cannot find any other specific traffic law violations involved in the crash.
Additionally, you could also be cited for “aggressive careless driving”
if you commit two or more of the following acts simultaneously or in succession:
Improper or unsafe lane changes
Failing to yield the right-of-way
Improperly passing a vehicle
Failing to obey traffic signs or signals
According to Florida Statute § 316.192:
“Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard
for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”
The main difference between careless driving and reckless driving is that
the latter is a criminal offense, as opposed to a moving violation. The
prosecution must prove that you were purposely operating a vehicle with
indifference to the consequences of your actions.
Common examples of reckless driving include:
A first offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence
of 90 days and/or a fine of up to $500. A second or subsequent offense
can result in a jail term of up to six months and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.
Car Accidents Involving a Careless Driver
If you have been injured in a car accident in Florida and the at-fault
driver is cited for careless driving by law enforcement officials, the
citation may certainly help your case. However, it doesn’t mean
that you will automatically win since your injury claim and the traffic
citation involve two different legal processes.
Florida is a no-fault accident state, which means injury claims will be
handled by each driver’s own personal injury protection (PIP) insurer.
Therefore, your insurance company will consider the evidence of the case—including
the careless driving citation—in order to reach a settlement agreement.
Alas, if you suffered a serious injury or if the insurer refuses to provide
you with a fair offer, it is best to hire an experienced personal injury
attorney to protect your rights and best interests, as well as maximize
your entitled compensation.